We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
— T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
As one might guess from the title of my blog, I like the idea of exploration. As children, we naturally see possibilities and opportunities in every tree and creek. Bill Watterson reminded us of this notion in his final Calvin and Hobbes strip. In it, is the feeling that all shall be well, a sentiment also found within “Little Gidding” by T. S. Eliot.
As I wondered over Eliot’s writing (the wheels in my head turn slowly), I kept returning to the four lines above, and I designed this walnut bowl as a fitting setting for his words. Through the layout of the words themselves, the path of the raised ridge along the underside of the bowl, and even the tree on the bottom, I hope the piece reflects return and renewal.
The bowl itself is large and round. It is from the walnut tree that fell this winter, deep in a ravine not far from my house. The photo to the left with the lemons may provide a sense of scale. The diameter of the bowl is 15 1/2 inches and it is 3 3/4 inches high. If life hands you a lot of lemons, you’ll have room for them.
Carving a round bowl is essentially the same process as carving a long trough-style bowl. Laying out circles is much easier, in fact. Then all that’s left to do is hew away with axe and adze. I just make sure to take extra care on the end grain areas near the rim. I sharpen my axe and emphasize a slicing motion.
The lettering itself was an interesting challenge. I drew many sketches of various potential letter forms, then, still on paper, worked out the spacing generally so that the verse would finish where it began along four feet of circumference. I then sketched the inscription onto the wood and began the painstaking process of carving the letters.
I experimented with different techniques for these letters and found that my finely sharpened pen knife blade worked best. Slicing with the knife proved to be the best strategy for dealing with the constantly changing grain around the bowl. It required cutting straight into end grain at times, as well as side grain and transitional areas.
I’ll put a few more photos below if you’d like to see some more shots. I’ve also just listed it for sale at my website which can be reached by clicking here. (update: sold 6/11)